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11 January, 2019 07:06 | Arizona Dept. |

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Army.com: VA Awards Contracts Value As much as $55 Billion for Personal-Sector Care
9 Jan 2019 | Army.com | By Patricia Kime
The Division of Veterans Affairs has awarded the primary of a number of regional contracts for its new Group Care Community that may substitute numerous private-sector well being care packages for veterans with VA well being advantages.
The VA introduced Dec. 28 that it awarded administration contracts for 3 areas overlaying 36 states, plus Washington, D.C.; Puerto Rico; and the U.S. Virgin Islands, to Optum Public Sector Options Inc., a government-services arm of Optum, the well being providers arm of UnitedHealthcare.
The contracts, for Areas 1, 2 and three, are for a base interval of 1 yr, beginning Jan. 18, and 7 renewable one-year choices via 2026, value a complete of $55.2 billion, if all choices are exercised.
The VA Mission Act, signed into regulation final June, stipulated that the VA consolidate its a number of private-sector care packages, together with the VA Selection and Affected person Centered Group Care packages, right into a single, complete group care system that may complement the VA’s personal system of medical facilities and clinics.
By regulation, the VA should have the framework for the brand new Group Care Community in place by June. The VA at present is ironing out guidelines relating to how and when veterans can get medical care within the personal sector, paid for by the VA, somewhat than obtain medical care at VA amenities.
In accordance with the VA, the brand new personal care administration corporations will probably be chargeable for venture administration, establishing medical networks and overseeing them, dealing with referrals from the VA and managing claims, offering high quality management and administering pharmacy advantages networks, in addition to dental networks and different providers.
VA spokesman Terrence Hayes stated that, whereas present contracts present main care, inpatient and outpatient specialty care, third-party administration and different providers, the brand new contractors will cowl these areas and extra, offering expanded well being care providers in addition to medical administration providers, claims processing and audits, knowledge analytics and change of well being care info.
About 30 % of VA medical appointments happen within the personal sector. At a listening to on implementation of the VA Mission Act on Dec. 19, VA Secretary Robert Wilkie informed lawmakers that the division is within the means of crafting eligibility and entry requirements to find out who can obtain care within the personal sector beneath the brand new program.
Lawmakers at that listening to, a joint assembly of the Senate and Home Veterans Affairs Committees, expressed concern that the VA would go too far in permitting entry to non-public care — a transfer Democrats say would undermine VA well being care and be a step towards privatizing the VA.
Republicans additionally stated the VA’s lack of transparency relating to guidelines and prices is a trigger for concern.
VA officers stated a contract award for Area four, which covers a lot of the western states, is predicted in April. Awards for Areas 5 and 6, which embrace Alaska and the Pacific territories, can be given by the top of the yr.
Contractors are anticipated to have their networks up and operating at two websites inside 180 days of a contract award and be absolutely operational inside a yr of the award.
“These contract awards reflect our ongoing commitment to increasing veterans’ access to care,” Wilkie stated within the launch on Optum on Dec. 28. “As part of VA’s modernization efforts, we designed the new network based on feedback from veterans and other stakeholders, along with lessons learned from the Veterans Choice Program. We are confident this new network will greatly improve customer service for veterans and timeliness of payments to community providers.”

Army Occasions: Veterans welcome? Lower than 2 % of Capitol Hill staffers have army expertise
By: Leo Shane III | 21 hours in the past
WASHINGTON — Fewer than 2 % of congressional staffers have served within the army, regardless of years of warning from advocates about the necessity to embrace veterans’ perspective in coverage work and pledges from lawmakers to assist separating service members discover work.
Based on figures launched this week by HillVets — a bipartisan networking group of Capitol Hill staffers with army expertise — solely about 200 of the 13,000-plus congressional employees have army backgrounds. That equates to about 1.6 % of the Capitol Hill workforce, not together with elected officers.
“There’s a fundamental lack of knowledge in Congress in regards to what these benefits mean and what it’s like to serve in the military,” stated Justin Brown, founding father of the group. “We don’t have that brain trust available.”
The variety of veterans elected to Congress this session dropped to beneath 100, the bottom degree since earlier than World Struggle II. However that also equates to about 18 % of legislators being veterans, far above the staffer ranges.
Within the government department, about 31 % of federal staff are veterans. The Protection Division (48 %) and Division of Veterans Affairs (33 %) have among the many highest veteran employment charges of any company, whereas Well being and Human Providers (eight %) and the Environmental Safety Company (9 %) are among the many lowest.
Even these charges far outpace the congressional illustration. Home and Senate Republicans did barely higher than their Democratic counterparts in hiring staffers with army expertise, however nonetheless didn’t break the two % employment mark.
The newest HillVets determine is definitely decrease than previous estimates of veterans employed on Capitol Hill, however Brown stated the whole variety of veterans staffers has principally stayed flat for the final 5 years.
“As it is now, we have staff writing policy for veterans who have never set foot in a VA hospital,” stated Brown, a Navy veteran who beforehand labored on the Home Veterans’ Affairs Committee. “We’re not suggesting that Capitol Hill should have upwards of 50 percent like the Defense Department. But the numbers should be higher than this.”
Whereas many Hill workplaces don’t make use of even one veteran, Brown stated his group has seen success tales with particular person workplaces.
For instance, Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D., has 5 engaged on his employees. He stated their perspective is invaluable.
“As a member of both the Senate Armed Services Committee and the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, being able to consult with them about their experiences and seek their advice helps me to make well-informed decisions,” he stated in a press release.
“The veterans in my office have served the country in our armed forces, and working in a Senate office is an extension of that service.”
HillVets has been pushing for extra veterans hiring for the previous 5 years, particularly in congressional coverage posts. The group has been sharing an inventory of greater than 40 potential staffers from its community of veterans together with the newest analysis findings, in an effort to assist repair the issue.
“There are veterans out there and they want to serve,” Brown stated. “But we’ve never seen a collective effort to really take on the issue. It’s going to take work to fix it.”

Washington Submit: Trump administration lays groundwork to declare nationwide emergency to construct wall
By Erica Werner, Josh Dawsey, Mike DeBonis and Seung Min Kim | January 10 at 9:31 PM
The White Home has begun laying the groundwork for a declaration of nationwide emergency to construct President Trump’s border wall, a transfer sure to set off a firestorm of opposition in Congress and the courts however one that would pave the best way for an finish to the three-week authorities shutdown.
The administration is eyeing unused cash within the Military Corps of Engineers finances, particularly a catastrophe spending invoice handed by Congress final yr that features $13.9 billion allotted however not spent for civil works tasks, two individuals with information of the developments stated Thursday.
Trump has urged the Military Corps to find out how briskly contracts might be signed and whether or not development might start inside 45 days, in line with one of many individuals who spoke on the situation of anonymity to explain the preparations.
The record consists of dozens of flood management tasks in areas affected by current pure disasters, together with the Texas shoreline inundated by Hurricane Harvey and elements of Puerto Rico battered by Hurricane Maria. The army development finances can also be being checked out as a possible supply for unspent funds, with billions extra probably obtainable there.
The preparations are happening with talks at an deadlock over Trump’s calls for for $5.7 billion to assemble greater than 200 miles of wall alongside the U.S.-Mexico border. Democrats are staunchly opposed, resulting in a partial authorities shutdown that on Saturday will turn into the longest in U.S. historical past.
Some 800,000 federal staff are about to overlook their first paychecks because the shutdown started Dec. 22, and issues plaguing shuttered nationwide parks, meals inspection processes and different federal providers are multiplying.
The Senate unanimously handed laws Thursday that might assure again pay to furloughed federal staff as soon as the shutdown ends, though hundreds of presidency contractors who’ve been furloughed might by no means recoup their losses.
Trump, who walked out of a White Home negotiating session Wednesday after Home Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) refused to comply with pay for his wall, reiterated Thursday that he might declare a nationwide emergency if Democrats don’t give him what he needs.
“Now if we don’t make a deal with Congress, most likely I will do that,” Trump stated to Fox Information host Sean Hannity about an emergency declaration in an interview that aired Thursday night time. “I would actually say I would. I can’t imagine any reason why not because I’m allowed to do it. The law is 100 percent on my side.”
The president and members of his administration have been depicting a humanitarian and public security disaster on the border, specializing in medicine flowing into america and violence by unauthorized immigrants. There was a big uptick in border apprehensions in 2018, based on knowledge from U.S. Customs and Border Safety, particularly of immigrant households, however border apprehensions stay a lot decrease than the excessive ranges seen within the 1980s via the 2000s.
Requested a few timetable for a nationwide emergency declaration, the president stated he would see the way it goes with Congress.
However on Capitol Hill there have been no indicators of progress, and as an alternative lawmakers of each events have been bracing for Trump to declare a nationwide emergency. Democrats have been exploring their choices on the best way to reply.
Democratic staffers from management workplaces and related committees met Thursday afternoon to debate a possible response. Based on an attendee, the assembly targeted on undercutting any case that the border state of affairs constituted a nationwide emergency beneath the authorized definition, and highlighting tasks that may be put in danger if Trump have been to raid different accounts to fund the wall.
Home Democratic management employees has explored the potential of a lawsuit towards the administration. Though no last determinations have been made, the present considering is that Congress in all probability wouldn’t have standing to sue, in accordance with a management aide.
State attorneys common or individuals immediately affected by a border wall — resembling landowners who’ve property alongside the U.S.-Mexico boundary — would in all probability need to file the lawsuit, and the Home might file a friend-of-the-court temporary.
Pelosi declined to say how the Home would reply to a nationwide emergency declaration when questioned at a information convention Thursday.
“If and when the president does that, you’ll find out how we will react,” Pelosi stated. “But I think the president will have problems on his own side of the aisle for exploiting the situation in a way that enhances his power.”
Certainly, a variety of Republicans have expressed qualms or outright opposition about Trump declaring a nationwide emergency, together with members of the Home Armed Providers Committee who object to the prospect of the administration concentrating on funds inside the Pentagon’s army development price range.
Others cautioned towards the administration taking government motion on a problem that must be Congress’s purview.
“It’s not the way to do it. I can understand why they’re looking at it,” stated Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho). “I don’t like the idea of pulling money out of defense and military construction and the Army Corps of Engineers. That’s not a good option.”
Requested Thursday whether or not she would help Trump invoking nationwide safety powers to start out wall development, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), an Appropriations Committee member, replied: “No.”
Dan Eberhart, a GOP donor who is usually supportive of Trump, stated, “Weaponizing a national emergency to achieve a policy objective is usually something that happens in banana republics, not George Washington’s republic.”
However different Republicans have been prepared for Trump to take the step.
In a press release Thursday, Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) accused Pelosi of intransigence that has introduced talks to an finish, and stated that “it is time for President Trump to use emergency powers to fund the construction of a border wall/barrier.”
“I hope it works,” Graham added.
“There’s no question, it’s perfectly legal,” stated Rep. Douglas A. Collins (R-Ga.). “I wish we didn’t have to.”
Whereas most Democrats stated Trump can be appearing recklessly and illegally if he declared a nationwide emergency, some have been open to the strategy.
“Honestly I would be glad, because then it would get shut down in court and we could move on,” stated Rep. Katie Hill (D-Calif.), a freshman who unseated a Republican in a swing suburban district. “Hopefully he figures that out pretty quick.”
One Democratic aide referred to as an emergency declaration an “elegant way out of this mess” — one that may permit Trump and Republicans to declare to their most fervent supporters that that they had taken Democrats to the brink, whereas Democrats would shortly transfer to tie up any development within the courts.
The Home and Senate might transfer shortly to cross a invoice to reopen the federal government, predicated on assurances from Trump that he would signal the laws.
Nevertheless, conservative Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), who talks regularly with Trump, cautioned that a declaration of a nationwide emergency wouldn’t essentially result in reopening the federal government.
Many Democrats additionally say that an emergency declaration would profit them politically by unifying their get together whereas splitting Republicans, creating unease amongst some conservatives who’ve expressed discomfort with a president sidestepping Congress in a means they could see as just like how President Barack Obama circumvented Congress on immigration.
The president has numerous powers to behave unilaterally, some claimed as inherent within the Structure, others particularly delegated by Congress. On Capitol Hill, most lawmakers and aides are anticipating a declaration beneath the 1976 Nationwide Emergencies Act, which set out a proper course of for declaring an emergency — and for Congress revoking it.
To override an emergency declaration, each homes of Congress must cross a decision doing so and current it to Trump for his signature — one he would presumably veto.
The administration can anticipate a flood of courtroom challenges if it proposes to construct a wall with out specific congressional authorization. Certainly, numerous organizations are getting ready for litigation, simply ready to see precisely what the president does.
“The use of emergency powers to build a wall is unlawful, and we are prepared to sue as needed,” stated Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the American Civil Liberties Union Immigrants’ Rights Undertaking, which has helped get hold of dozens of courtroom orders blocking Trump administration immigration insurance policies.
“There’s going to be a lot of lawsuits,” stated Brian Segee, senior lawyer for the Middle for Organic Variety. “We are preparing” for potential litigation now, he stated.
Even because the discussions over a nationwide emergency declaration have been happening, a last glimmer of hope for a approach out of the deadlock was extinguished when Graham declared talks over amongst a small group of Republican senators who had been assembly to debate some sort of broader deal to finish the shutdown.
These deal-minded Senate Republicans had shuttled Thursday morning between conferences with Senate Majority Chief Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Vice President Pence, batting round a proposal that would come with Trump’s desired $5.7 billion in wall funding, and a renewable, three-year standing for sure immigrants introduced illegally to the nation as youngsters, together with different provisions.
However by midafternoon Thursday, Pence poured chilly water on the thought, telling reporters on the Capitol that Trump needed to attend on making an attempt to make a deal for “dreamers” till the Supreme Courtroom had dominated on the Deferred Motion for Childhood Arrivals program, the Obama-era program that granted protections to those immigrants.
Graham was glum afterward about the place issues stood, saying he has “never been more depressed about moving forward than right now.” Not lengthy after that he issued his assertion backing a nationwide emergency declaration.
On the similar time, Home Democrats pressed ahead with their technique of passing particular person spending payments to reopen parts of the federal authorities which were closed within the shutdown.
The Home on Thursday handed two extra spending payments that might open elements of the federal government that don’t have anything to do with border safety, largely with Democratic votes. A handful of Republicans joined Democrats in supporting these payments — 12 for a invoice funding the departments of Transportation and Housing and City Improvement, and 10 for a invoice funding the Agriculture Division, the Meals and Drug Administration and different businesses.
However Trump has made clear he would veto these payments, and McConnell has stated repeatedly that he won’t deliver up any laws that doesn’t have Trump’s help.
“There’s no wall, there’s no deal,” Pence advised reporters on Capitol Hill.

Protection Information: Pentagon briefs senators on Syria plans, leaving unanswered questions
By: Joe Gould | 15 hours in the past
WASHINGTON — Pentagon officers visited Capitol Hill on Thursday to reassure lawmakers amid confusion over plans to implement President Donald Trump’s order for U.S. troops to withdraw from Syria — however some Democrats and Republicans have been left unhappy.
The Protection Division’s undersecretary for coverage, John Rood, and Military Lt. Gen. Richard Clarke, director for technique, plans, and coverage for the Joint Employees, gave the Senate Armed Providers Committee a categorized briefing that emphasised the withdrawal’s deliberate tempo and the continued U.S. help for the Kurdish and Arab militias working alongside American troops since 2015.
The briefing got here as Trump is extensively seen as backtracking on his shock Dec. 19 choice to pronounce the Islamic State group defeated and begin a “rapid withdrawal” of two,000 U.S. troops from Syria. The transfer sparked criticism from GOP lawmakers and was adopted by the resignation of each Jim Mattis as protection secretary and Brett McGurk because the U.S. envoy to forces preventing ISIS.
The plan fell into additional disarray after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan refused to satisfy with nationwide safety adviser John Bolton in the course of the U.S. official’s go to to Ankara. Erdogan dismissed Bolton’s demand that Turkey guarantee the security of U.S.-backed Kurdish fighters. Erdogan stated Bolton had made a “grave mistake” in setting that situation for the pullout of troops.
Exiting the assembly between Pentagon officers and lawmakers Thursday, SASC chairman Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., stated he has requested the administration guarantee Israel and U.S.-backed Kurds “are well taken care of on this — and I believe they will be.”
Inhofe in any other case praised Trump’s withdrawal plans as conditions-based and, “in spite of some rhetoric to the contrary,” not a reversal.
“You guys always jump on his style,” Inhofe informed reporters, “but [Trump] also realizes he’s not going to do something that we’re not ready to do, that we’re not equipped to do. I believe that will happen, and I got that assurance, including in this meeting.”
Some Republicans have been nonetheless skeptical. Requested if he was glad there wouldn’t be a hasty pullout, SASC member Thom Tillis, R-N.C., stated: “Not yet.”
“I think there [has] got to be some sort of conditions placed on this withdrawal, and if it’s just purely time-based, I don’t think it’s a good idea,” he stated.
Sen. Kevin Cramer, a brand new senator and SASC member, revealed combined emotions, saying he was inspired with some elements of the withdrawal plans, together with what officers stated concerning the tempo of the withdrawal — however he nonetheless had questions.
“My greatest concern probably is the Kurds and whether or not — just how defenseless we’re going to leave them,” Cramer stated, including later that U.S. help going ahead can be “not insignificant.”
Nonetheless, Cramer, a North Dakota Republican who was elected after aligning himself with Trump, recommended it’s unclear whether or not Trump will change his thoughts once more.
“It seems to me the questions I would have, and a lot of us would have, can only be answered by the president, and I say that because his orders were rather specific,” Cramer stated. “My question for him would be: ‘Can you foresee conditions changing that would cause you to change your mind.’ ”
SASC Democrats provided criticism of the Trump administration, arguing it had not considerably backtracked since Dec. 19.
“I think the president’s call to withdraw from Syria [is] a mistake,” stated New Hampshire Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, who sits on the Senate Overseas Relations and Armed Providers committees. “I think it’s a major foreign policy blunder because not only does it abandon the Kurds and the Syrian Democratic Forces, but it leaves Russia and Iran to expand their influence in Syria.”
SASC rating member Jack Reed, D-R.I., has predicted that a “withdrawal of forces without any political, diplomatic or military support” would have dire penalties.
The U.S. presence in Syria has been a bulwark towards ISIS in Iraq, and its withdrawal will doubtless revitalize the group’s underground parts all through the Center East, Reed stated. Plans for the U.S. to go away have spurred its allies to hunt help from different powers within the area, together with Russia, Iran and the Syrian authorities.
“I don’t think you can reverse the damage,” Reed stated.
Although the Obama administration was criticized as an unreliable associate within the Mideast, its overseas coverage selections have been a minimum of based mostly on evaluation and vetted by way of the federal government and allies, Reed stated. Trump, against this, introduced his Syria choice on Twitter.
“This tweet was completely disruptive, unstaffed by anyone I can identify, without any consultation with significant allies,” Reed stated. “Frankly, [Middle Eastern allies] are looking at everything we do in that same context: This could evaporate tomorrow, this could be amended — and by the way, they never considered our problems.”


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